Inside-outside improvisation

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The inside-outside Improvisation is a method of musical improvisation , particularly in jazz are alternated with the conventional, harmoniously matching melodies with harmonic inappropriate.


Technically speaking, an improvisation in jazz is called inside-outside improvisation when the player leaves the specified key or tonality in order to return to it at a moment that he can freely determine. Inside-outside improvisation is also used again and again in free jazz . This is where musical thoughts with clear moods can arise, which can be resolved in a targeted manner and then revived at an appropriate time. However, improvisation using so-called changes is common . In this context, changes (chord changes) are the chord progressions of a jazz standard or composition . These chord progressions can go through different keys, the interrelationships of which the soloist has to take into account. This means that there are fixed rules that impose constraints on the improviser in terms of his tone selection. The improviser has a limited selection of sound material that he has to apply to certain chords.

Harmonious framework (example)

Kenny Garrett uses inside-outside improvisation in his solos

The chord progression A maj 7 - A m 7 - G 7 9 - Cm 7 is given

These chords are ambiguous in their assignment of scales and the improviser can choose one, which gives him the opportunity to select a specific tone for his project.

At A maj 7 you have z. For example, the possibility of the scales or scale A Ionic A Lydian or A Lydian 9 (corresponding harmonic minor in the sixth stage) to play

At A m 7 one has z. As the ability to A Aeolian , A Doric or A Phrygian to play

With G 7 9 one has z. B. the possibility to play G Mixolydian ( 9 / 13), G Altered or G semitone / whole tone ,

With Cm 7 there are again the same possibilities in terms of scales as with A m 7 - i.e. C Aeolian, C Doric or C Phrygian

Expansion through inside-outside improvisation

However, there is still the possibility of expanding these tone repertoires using inside-outside improvisation. What is special about the technique of inside-outside improvisation is that it transcends the natural limits of harmony .

There are various options for this.

  1. You intuitively leave the given keys and shift the melodic emphasis to tones that are not in the chord, in order to return to the original key at the appropriate time.
  2. You develop so-called "ghost changes" - as a theoretical construct - which you then improvise, although in reality other players - namely the given - changes are played.
  3. Symmetrical scales are used, such as the semitone / whole-tone scale or the whole-tone scale . They are ambiguous and do not have the consistent harmonic progressions of diatonic scales and are therefore freer to use.
  4. You play bitonal sounds to the given chords. There are more or less suitable bitonal sounds.

The following rule applies:

The more you shift the focus of the game from the inside (In) to the outside (Out), the more abstract the music appears .

Example for point 2

The specified changes are:
4 bars + 4 bars + 4 bars + 4 bars
On the 7th B maj 7 Hm 7 5 E 7 9
Imaginary ghost changes for this could be:
3 bars + 1 bar + 3 bars + 1 bar + 3 bars + 1 bar + 3 bars + 1 bar
On the 7th F 7 9 B maj 7 C maj 7 11 Hm 7 5 F 9 11 E 7 9 B 13


The targeting is also a musical improvisation method of jazz. Target tones of the tonality to be described are activated chromatically or reached in a playful manner. Example: C major is 'targeted' by G –G –G – E –E –E – C –C –C melody. This method can be heard e.g. B. at Django Reinhardt .

Psychological requirement

Independent of all academic considerations, inside-outside improvisation is a means of making improvisations interesting and full of tension. The tension between fuzziness and accuracy opens up a multitude of possibilities for the player to decide on different courses of improvisation. An important aspect of this improvisation is the achievement of an inner security. This security guarantees that the tones or melodies do not give the listener the impression of a "wrong" sound, but rather form the starting point for new, exciting tone sequences.

Sample artist

Examples of jazz artists using inside-outside improvisation include John Coltrane , Allan Holdsworth , Woody Shaw , Christof Lauer , Eric Dolphy , Joe Zawinul , Christopher Dell , Kenny Garrett and John Scofield .